With Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez sidelined with injuries, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge is proving he earned the starting job.
Coming into the season, optimism was sky high for the New York Yankees. A youth movement was imminent and the rebuild was set to begin on a high note. But, as we all know, bumps in the road are expected, but maybe not to this degree.
Greg Bird started the season on a 1-for-16 slide before he was forced to the bench with an injured ankle. Things took an ugly turn when Gary Sanchez swung at a high heater during an away game against the Baltimore Orioles.
It seemed as if he had just swung too hard. However, it was later revealed that he had strained a muscle in his right bicep, thus beginning a DL stint.
While the rebuild has gotten off to a tough start, there’s one player who has kept the hope alive: Aaron Judge.
In his sophomore season as a Yankee, Judge is hitting .261 with two home runs and four RBI. The best part, though, is that he struck out just six times through 25 plate appearances. This is a monumental change from last season, when he K’d in literally half of his at bats (42 out of 84).
In many ways, Judge’s development is more important than Bird’s and Sanchez’s. For Bird and Sanchez, they were essentially locks to take over starting spots. Veterans literally left the team either through retirement or trade to make room for them.
Judge was the wild card, though, far from a sure thing considering the Yankees’ outfield depth.
There was always a very real possibility that Aaron Hicks would win the starting gig, as the official decision didn’t come until the last few days of spring training.
He had to curb his strikeout numbers significantly and show that he was more than power-only player. So far, he’s done that. While strikeouts will always be part of his game, the Yankees can’t afford for Judge to fall into a slump as he did last season, especially with such vital parts of their lineup out.
So far, though, it doesn’t look as if Judge will go back to the player he was for so long in the minors. It appears as if he’s ready to make the leap from a developing player to a bona fide leader and star.
Doing that in New York isn’t easy, but time will tell, as it always does.